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I'm working on a short story (maximum of 6,000 words) and realized that I will need to have two point-of-view (POV) characters. Let's call them Greg and Jeff. This became necessary when I saw that Greg, whom I had been using as the POV character, would have to leave a crucial scene for a moment but the story needed to continue in that place.

I couldn't use Jeff as the POV character for the whole story because Greg still needs a scene after he leaves the room. I hesitate to have a story of 10 scenes or so with only 1 using a different POV character.

What is a good mix of scenes for two POV characters in one short story?

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I (many years ago) wrote a short story that had 3 POV characters in an altercation all, effectively, in the same scene. wattpad.com/18043229-the-witness If you can adequately explain the change of POV, then I don't believe there's necessarily a problem. –  Dan Hanly Dec 12 '13 at 17:17

2 Answers 2

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Serve the plot.

I actually don't mind having a 10:1 ratio if the one scene packs a real punch. I wouldn't arbitrarily make half your scenes the other POV if it doesn't do anything to advance or improve your story. Don't fix what ain't broken.

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After some planning and work last night, the current mix is 4 scenes from Jeff's POV and 8 from Greg's. 2 of Jeff's are near the beginning and 2 near the end. Having just the one scene was too jarring. Each scene with Jeff's POV does now advance the story. Thank you! –  Frank Luke Dec 13 '13 at 16:01

I agree with Lauren's answer; there's no sense in "balancing" things for the sake of one scene. There are a few ways I can see to handle this:

You can encapsulate narrators to keep a single viewpoint, sorta. I have an example from a friend named Joe, although I wasn't around when Phil told me about it. Phil says: "In response to my question, Joe looked up from his book. He said, 'It's okay to have a viewpoint encapsulated inside a retelling'. Then Joe looked thoughtful. 'Just make sure it's doubly clear who's talking to avoid confusing the reader.'" Phil nodded and said, "Joe was dead right. Recursive quotations can be damn tricky." And so they are. I've edited this paragraph twice and still may have gotten this wrong. So use this carefully.

You can make an exception for one section, carefully labeling it as an alternate viewpoint. This can throw the reader out of the story if you're not careful, but it may be easier to handle if it's, say, a prologue or an interstitial chapter in-between major sections of the book. (Dropping into omniscient viewpoint might be best if you're going to do this.)

Or you can just embed what the viewpoint character needs to know in other scenes. This is usually my preference and it would probably be easiest for the reader to handle, but will take you a bit of time to write/edit this. I suggest making a list of critical information and see where you can fit it in.

In the end, remember that the story and characters are the most important thing. Any method of including information needs to either move the story forward, add needed atmosphere, or build a character.

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